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Author  Michelle Rowland - PRINCE2® and MSP® Lead Trainer, CITI Limited

June 30, 2017 |

 6 min read

  • Blog
  • Examinations
  • Programme management
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Taking the MSP® (Managing Successful Programmes) Practitioner exam puts you on a pathway to a proven best practice method for managing transformational change in organizations.

Taking the MSP® (Managing Successful Programmes) Practitioner exam puts you on a pathway to a proven best practice method for managing transformational change in organizations.

Programmes are the delivery mechanism for this level of change, defining an organization’s future and how its transformed state will look. Following MSP’s guidance provides programmes with an agenda and sequence of events to follow, helping the organization’s executives, the sponsoring group, the programme board and the senior responsible owner (SRO) through the process.

But how should you approach the MSP course of study and the exam itself?

If you are a certified PRINCE2® Practitioner, you’re already well-prepared for the MSP Practitioner exam. However, other professionals need to understand that the MSP Practitioner exam is an objective test and need to familiarize themselves with its format.

Preparing for the exam

  • You can either attend a course or self-study. If attending a course, the training provider will ensure you are well prepared for the exam. However, for self-study you should obtain:
  • Read the MSP manual, making notes and highlighting as you go.
  • Mark up your MSP guide as suggested below – you can take a copy of the Axelos MSP guide into the practitioner exam with you, so make sure all of your notes and sticky notes are within your copy.

    Please note only hard copy versions of the MSP guide may be taken into the exam. PDF versions of the guide will not be allowed.
    • Governance themes in one colour
    • Processes within the transformational flow in another colour
    • Appendices and glossary in a third colour
    • For specific pages/diagrams within a chapter, use a different colour.
  • Revise by watching the videos in MyAxelos

Subjects to revise in particular

The Practitioner syllabus covers all governance themes and all processes equally. However, you may want to revise the following two areas in particular as they are central to understanding MSP:

  • Blueprint design and delivery is an important topic so make sure you understand that:
  • Writing the blueprint starts by documenting the current state – how the organization operates today
  • The future state blueprint describes how the organization will operate in the future and therefore does not describe what the programme needs to do in order to deliver the future state. It describes the target operating model of the business.
  • Intermediate state blueprints should be written, describing how the organization will operate at the end of each tranche. This is used to assess progress towards the future operating model at end-of-tranche reviews.
  • There are four “sections” or “headings” in a blueprint:
    • Processes covering processes, models of functions, as well as operating costs and performance measures
    • Organization covering staffing levels, culture, role descriptions, skills
    • Technology covering IT, infrastructure, equipment, accommodation
    • Information and data that will be used to monitor the performance of the future state
  • Programme organization is also a key topic so familiarize yourself with each of the roles and the required skills/competencies.

Prioritizing questions during the exam

In general, plan to answer the questions in the order that they appear. However, this doesn’t always work for everyone!

As you will discover when completing sample papers, some question formats take longer to answer than others so you may want to prioritize which questions to answer first.

Here are some ideas about what to focus on or leave until the end:

  • Multiple response questions – those that require two answers to get one mark (and both answers must be right to get the mark!). They take more time than other question formats and you may find that you score lower. Maybe leave these until the end if struggling to complete the paper in the time.
  • Matching questions – those that have information in Column 1 and options in Column 2. They are normally quite quick to answer and you may choose to answer these questions first.
  • Questions with extensive additional information – while this type of question is often reasonably simple, the volume of reading material can make it slower to answer. If you are short of time, you may want to leave these until the end.

What to look up during the exam

  • For the governance themes, it’s useful to use the responsibilities at the end of each theme as they provide a lot of information and it’s a quick and easy page to find.
  • For the processes, the easy-to-find RACI tables at the end of each chapter show who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed.
  • For documents/programme information, use Appendix A – this is in alphabetical order and will be very helpful when answering questions relating to purpose and content of documentation.
  • If there are several marks on a particular subject, it is worth looking it up even if the particular page is tricky to find, though less so for just one mark!

Time management during the exam

  • Allow about 15 minutes for reading the scenario. Focus on its overall objectives and benefits rather than the detail of the individual projects. If you need to know this level of detail to answer a specific question, you can always refer back to the scenario.
  • Allow about 15 minutes per question. If you are unsure or get stuck, move on and come back to the question if you have time. But at least choose an answer in case you run out of time.
  • Fill in the answer booklet as you complete a page of questions – don’t wait until the end as it’s time-consuming and you don’t want to run out of time!
  • There should be 15 minutes left at the end – use this time to review any questions that you were unsure of and check your completed answer sheet. Check that questions that require either one or two answers have the right number of answers.

If you have opted to study MSP Foundation first and return to do Practitioner separately at a later date, you need to prepare as if attending a course or doing self-study and attempt the Foundation sample papers to bring yourself back up to the required level.

See our MSP Practitioner page for more information and see our Training section to find an MSP course.